Sunday, 21 December 2014

whats missing from (psychologists) understanding grief

we all know the phrase "well it depends on where you stand" .. its one of those classic cliches which we utter to explain when we disagree and we feel vaguely that the other person doesn't see our perspective.

At first glance the shot below (which I took near Franz Joseph glacier)  looks like a shot up a mountain pass.

but it becomes quickly apparent that there is something wrong, its framed above with grasses. Its when you make the connection that I've photographed the reflection in a lake and turned it upside down that you see it for what it is. Indeed it becomes clear if you view it upside down.

So what's this got to do with grief?

Well it seems to me that almost nothing written in the 'academic' realm about grief seems to go past the concepts of loss. ... Oh ... loss ... well I'd never thought of it like I'd lost something.

Wow, thanks for clearing that up, I'd thought my nose was just blocked by a flu... Seriously I'm in the wrong game if people can get paid hundreds per hour to write rubbish and dispense rubbish.

To me I feel now that what's missing from the psychobabble on grief is comprehension of love and the enduring ties that love has. Perhaps this failure in identification stems from the possibility that most of these writers have never felt love.

what is love?

Love is probably the most misused word in the English language. Its brought to bear on everything from how much you like an ice-cream on a hot day to feelings of lust. Even having sex is called "making love" when (if literature and the visual arts are much to go by) it really means "getting your rocks off". In contrast I feel that Love is something which grows. Like growing living things it is not always going to grow and it may indeed die. But like all things in life, it is a continuum ... some people have a great capacity for love, others have none.

I think that the love parents feel for their children is an excellent example. Some parents deeply love their children while others simply exploit their children or see them as an extension of their own lives and choose to live vicariously through them.

I reckon that an important and neglected aspect of grief is dealing with something which is still existing - the love you have for your spouse.

run away ...

one of the pieces of advice given to those suffering from grief is to "move on" ... what stupidity is that? Grief over the loss of the one you love is something you can't ignore, runaway from or escape.

If you want to see a bad reaction, take a baby from a woman and tell her to "move on". Would you expect her to just say "oh, yes, its gone now I see that ... well then" or would you expect her to do everything in her power to get her baby back. Probably she won't try to run away from such a thing

The problem with the advice of creating distance from the pain is that it only works for some problems.

For the same reasons you loved the one you lost you can't ignore that they are gone.

The very nature of our fight or flight response is to put distance between us and a problem. However in the case of grief the problem is distance. We are suddenly distanced from the one we love and it is not in the hearts of good and moral humans to simply forget love and walk away from it.

So as I see it, a key failing in the realm of grief counseling is to fail to address this issue.

Some groups try to address it by appealing to the view that the separation of you from your loved one is simply a matter of time. That in the future (after you die) you will be re-united with them (but usually only if you believe X Y or Z).

I can see the benefit of this approach, but feel that its dependent on faith.

No matter of what it promises in the life after, it does however provide nothing to help you here and now. It offers nothing to help you with waking up alone every morning, doing things that you did together alone, having no comfort provided by the one who you were mutually in love with being there to talk to and provide support.


To those of you reading this who are in grief I am sorry that I don't have anything to offer you (or me even) to help with the pain. What I have instead come to see is that like other sufferers of chronic pain all we can do is manage it. So despite the pain there is no choice, no other alternative plan, but to face the loss and work out how to deal with it; because you can never be as you were. "We all started out as something different", life takes us on a journey which (in truth) we only play a minor role in. Part of the shock to the system in grief is seeing this truth.

"Moving On" becomes an act of learning to do things as does a paraplegic need to re-learn. It is not about attempting to forget the one you loved, indeed you should cherish that love and hold it dear to your heart. Eventually the pain becomes something to which you are able to endure, like learning to run a marathon. You can't do it at first but with training you become strong enough to do it.

Why bother? - well I have no answer for that, I wash in and out of that daily myself. But to me if you don't choose to kill yourself then one reason is to try to make your life better. I will never regain the love that I had or be able to live again what we lived, be able to share the adventures we shared and everything that went into our marriage.

Our love lives in this world only in me now. I am the custodian of that (perhaps) ephemeral beauty.

Its a hard lesson to learn. Its a lesson because I believe that its something we have to learn. Unlike almost everything else in life, there is no one to show you the way or how it is done.

A start to learning it is to understand perspectives.

Life Sucks and then you Die...

Seeing the truth of this requires an altered perspective: everything we eat comes from a living thing (sorry to say Vegans but you're still killing something). Something dies so that we can live. Mostly in our lives, its us sucking life.

Seeing this and accepting that the world (solar system, galaxy and universe) does not revolve around you (or me) is perhaps the next lesson that can be learned from our grief.

Turning the perspective around, a baby sucks milk from a nipple. The mother is giving willingly but the baby is still sucking life and nourishment from her (which takes much energy to produce). The time perspectives are longer than we consider normally, but indeed at that moment while she is nourishing her infant she is also on the path to death. She (unlike the child she is feeding) is not growing, only growing older.

Recently I had the opportunity to be a nipple for someone. I provided advice and suggestions to someone who with that advice was able to avoid having another open heart surgery and instead undergo a treatment which solved the problem for her valve. As one who has had 3 open heart surgeries , I felt very grateful to be able to use what I know to help another person avoid that particular road.

If I do no more than this from time to time then I'm doing something good. I'm helping life go on (even if its not my life) by being a supply of something for someone else.

Perhaps that can help you to feel better about living with grief, living with the loss and remaining in love with the one you lost.

I've seen gods bleeding.
I've seen worlds burn.
I've seen stars falling.
And I've seen the 'Dead Son Rising'!

We are 'The Lost' ---
Without you we are all that was wrong.
We are 'The Lost' ---
Without you we are the sigh in the wind.
Gary Numan

Best Wishes

1 comment:

Charles Maclauchlan said...

Hello, Chris. I came across this there other day.

Grief is a most peculiar thing; we're so helpless in the face of it. It's like a window that will simply open of its own accord. The room grows cold, and we can do nothing but shiver.
--Arthur Golden

re: psychobabble. I've come to understand that disciplines that add the name "Science" are not science at all. Like Social Science or Political Science or Climate Science. I'm not sure what their raison d'ĂȘtre might be...self aggrandizement perhaps. I don't see a contribution to society at large. My son Patrick was a Geo Physicist...not Geo Physicist Science. If you can do the math you don't need to add the title.

The psychobabbnle "advice" offered about grief is a bit like trying to douse a fire with gasoline. The only thing I can think to say to someone who suffered a loss is "Fuck!" Any more hurts more than it helps. Other than that my wish for you is the same as it is for find peace.